Wearing Adoption on Your Shirt

t-shirt proclaiming "adoption rocks!"Originally published by adoptionblogs.com on the Transracial/Transcultural Adoption Blog, July 17, 2009.

A few days ago, a friend of mine from an online group wrote about the “Adoption Rocks!” t-shirt she was wearing. Two people came up to her and told her their positive adoption experiences, and she was very excited that her shirt had been a gateway to meeting them.

Someone else posted a related, though different, story, a March 2008 post to the blog Anti-Racist Parent. (Thank you Wayback Machine.)

The difference between “Adoption Rocks!” and “So I’m Adopted. You Were An Accident.” should be self-explanatory. Still, I thought a little investigating into the world of adoption-related apparel was in order.

My friend purchased her shirt at Cafepress.com, a site that allows anyone to make pretty much anything they want. Searching for “adoption” brings up 27,800 items. Some of them are particular to pet adoption, which made me feel much better about the “Feed ’em, don’t breed ’em” t-shirt with a bone on it. I only went through the first 30 pages of results. Yes, I am bored… I mean, dedicated.

Love It
• Superman was adopted.
• Adoption Rocks! (short and to the point)
• Focus on your own family. (Not for a child, obviously. And I know it’s snarky. It just hits home for me.)

Like It
• Don’t tell my parents, but they don’t look a thing like me. (Though I would never actually have my child wear this shirt, I like the sentiment. I could see an adult adoptee using it as a bumper sticker for example.)
• Pretty, cute, and [insert country of origin here]. (I feel that this is about pride in one’s heritage, personally.)
• One Family. Many Colors. Lots of Love. (Not sure I’d make a child wear this, but I can totally see wearing it as a parent to an adoption- or parenting-related event.)
• A shirt with the world on it proclaiming “We are family”.
• Sent from heaven by way of [country]. (For a really little kid, this would be cute.)
• Paper Pregnant * Adoption in Progress (I know some people have issues with the term “paper pregnant”. I don’t. I would have been prepared to get some pretty strange and even angry glances if I wore this, but I still would have worn it.)

Hate It
• Worth the wait. (First thought: And biological kids aren’t? Second thought: This is making your child an advertisement for adoption.) *
• Guatemama and Guatepapa (First thought: Those words just sound ugly. Second thought: Reminds me way too much of BabyMama.)
• Adopt: The best thing you can do for a child. (So many ways this is not true.)
• Sorry to have kept you all waiting. (Because you know, it’s the child’s fault.)
• A name label that reads “Hello, I’m Adopted”
• Sorry Angelina, I’m taken. (Can we be done with the Angelina jokes, please?)
• Angelina adopted me. (Apparently not.)
• Child birth is an act of nature. Adoption is an act of God.
• adoptive mommy (Because we want to reinforce that being an “adoptive” mommy is different than being a mommy mommy?)
• i will be a mother (Who are you trying to convince?)
• My mom does have one of her own – ME! (Again with the child advertising adoption.)
• My Mommy & Daddy went to [country] and all they brought back was me. (Because self-effacing humor looks so good when worn on unsuspecting children.)

What Were They Thinking???
• An ultrasound picture with the outline of China traced on it.
• same love. no labor. (Are you serious?!? NO LABOR?!?)
• Made in China. (Hardee har har)
• Even my kid was made in China. (har har)
• Shh… I’m adopted. (It’s a onesie. *sigh*)
• Make the neighbors wonder, consider transracial adoption. (My husband says, “That’s… hilarious…” I wonder why I married him.)
• Spicy Hunan Girl (As a toddler’s shirt. If a teenager wanted to wear this, that’s between her and her parents.)
• I’m simply priceless. (And your parents are tasteless too.)
• motherhood. no stretch marks required. (On a personal level, I find this a little funny. It’s also incredibly insulting.)
• I know a little Russian… wanna meet her? (Are you a parent or a pimp?)
• Hands off! Unless you’re my mom or dad. Bonding in process. (A little over the top are we?)
• Ethiopia… Birthplace of coffee and my grandchild.

Many of the sayings are sincere or sarcastic responses to questions adoptive families are frequently asked. For example, “Yes, all these kids are MINE”, “REAL Mommy”, and “I grew in my Mommy’s heart, not under it.” I’m not particularly fond of these types of shirts. I don’t find them offensive, but I can see how others might.

Some people might not want to advertise how their families came to be. They may feel that it’s nobody’s business, and they don’t want to invite comments from others, especially if their children are in the in-between age, where they don’t quite understand the fuss, but they know it’s about them.

One adult adoptee wrote that she would have been mortified if her parents had worn, or made her wear, certain shirts. As adoptive parents, we need to realize that our children may not share our views on the wonders of adoption. In addition, many children wouldn’t want to wear shirts that call attention to their differences. We shouldn’t force our children to be adoption ambassadors, or shining examples of what adopted people can do.

On the other hand, there are plenty of shirts for those waiting. If a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin, or sibling wants to wear a t-shirt announcing that he’s waiting for his granddaughter from China, or a brother from Korea, well, who are we to criticize? There are plenty of embarrassing shirts for pregnant women, their partners, and other biological family members. I also find no fault with the shirts that read “Grandma” or “Sister” in both English and another language.

Do you have any adoption-related apparel? Do you think I’m being too sensitive? Not sensitive enough?


* “Worth the wait” shirts are now being mass-produced for babies of all origins. Thus, I have changed my opinion on them. I now think they are appropriate for any infant.

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